Camping,  Travel,  U.S. Travel

Camping at Onondaga Cave State Park

Hello there, my fellow outdoors lover!

Today, I’m sharing a bit of the outdoors as well as the indoors found outdoors…the underground world of Onondaga Cave! Our family spent a short weekend at Onondaga Cave State Park, but it was one we won’t soon forget!

Onondaga Cave State Park, near Leasburg, Missouri, is about 80 miles southwest of Saint Louis, on the Meramec River. With river access, plenty of hiking trails and two caves within the park, this park is a perfect place to have an adventure.

Know Before You Go

Whether you’re in for a day trip to tour the caves or for a weekend away from the city, at less than 2 hours southwest of Saint Louis, Onondaga Cave State Park has a lot to offer. Visit their website to get more information!

Things To Do

  • Tour a cave or two! Tour the park’s namesake, Onondaga Cave or for more adventurous cave explorers, take a tour of Cathedral Cave as well and see why they call Missouri “the cave state.”
  • Hit the Trails! Four trails provide over 7 miles of trail ranging from easy to moderate
    • ADA Accessible: Blue Heron Trail (.5 mi one way)
  • Go fishing, canoeing, floating, or kayaking in the Meramec River
  • Have a picnic at one of the single table picnic pads or covered shelter
  • Play at the playground inside the campground
  • Attend a nature program at the amphitheater – Available only during the summer months
  • Visit the Visitor’s Center to learn about the natural history of the area and explore the gift shop
  • Set up camp in basic, water/electric, or family spots
  • Stay at the nearby Ozark Outdoors river resort, which boasts a ropes course, floating and kayaking in addition to a comfy bed at night, A/C, and private restrooms.

Campground Amenities

The campground at this park is a smaller one with fewer sites available in general, but they make the most of what they have. There’s a large shower house with a small laundry room and nice playground at the entrance of the campground and a smaller shower house more toward the middle of the campground, which we actually preferred. Pit toilets are also available, but they’re situated between the main shower house and the smaller one, each of which have working toilets, so it seemed kind of superfluous to me.

Why did I prefer the smaller shower house? There were only 2 showers, but they were the more recent style of being completely private, as opposed to the larger shower house which were stalls of showers all lined up next to each other. That’s really the only real difference. The smaller shower house had the added benefit of being closer to our campsite, so there you go.

There’s a small gift shop in the visitor center with souvenirs and a few essentials in case you run out of or forgot something for your trip. Firewood can be purchased at one of the two campground hosts as well as ice. The concrete pads are nice and long and the fire pits are a decent size with an adjustable height grill. The downside to the fire pits, in my opinion, is that the grills do not fold out of the way if not in use. There are plenty of mature trees and shade, but no matter which side of the drive you choose, you’ll either get morning or evening sun.

Connecting the campground to the visitor center is a half-mile scenic paved trail called the Blue Heron Trail, where as you walk past the small pond, you may see, you guessed it, one or more blue herons! My son also enjoyed riding his bike on this trail as well, seeing as it is paved.

What We Did

Onondaga has been on our list for a while and earlier this month we finally made it! We came down on a Sunday and while we planned to leave Wednesday morning, weather necessitated us leaving Tuesday evening. Still, we filled our days and had a blast! Aside from the Blue Heron Trail I referenced above, we also hiked the 2.5 mile Deer Run Trail loop, which provided some beautiful panoramas overlooking the Meramec River and so many different types of mushrooms and flora! It was a little hectic in a couple of places where some trees had recently fallen over the trail, but we made it, dog and all, and made sure to report it to the guides at the Visitor Center so they could clear it for others.

And of course you can’t visit Onondaga Cave State Park without visiting the cave it is named after! Especially during the summer months, the cool temps of the cave were a welcome relief! We signed up for the basic tour, which if you are planning to go on a weekend, I recommend you buying your tickets in advance because they will sell out. Luckily, we went on a weekday, so not only did we easily get tickets, but we also were able to get one of the dog crates to keep Charlie safe while we were on the tour.

I made a video of our tour of Onondaga Cave, where you can see a large variety of speleothems like soda straws, flow stones, stalactites and stalagmites, and the less common lily pad formations. Come along with us!

It was such a fun and unique park, we had a blast! Whether you’re looking for something fun and cool to do in the summer or want a get away, there’s so much to explore in this beautiful park!

One last thing before I go, in case this tickles your funny bone as much as it did mine…. I took this picture of our little bichpoo, Charlie, who made herself right at home on top of a tote of folded towels and sheets as we packed up camp to head home LOL! This girl always cracks me up!

Until next time, happy camping!


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